Why is inclusive education important?
The importance of inclusive teaching is mandated in Deakin University policy wherein: ‘The Academic Board will ensure that all courses approved for initial and continuing accreditation comply with the principles for inclusive education‘ (Diversity and Inclusion Policy 2017).
Inclusive approaches to teaching and learning in higher education are critical for providing access for all students regardless of prior learning experience, socio-cultural background, personal abilities or circumstances. This is particularly important given that we have a very diverse learner community. The nature of such diversity is discussed in more detail later—see Teaching diverse learners.
Although it is essential to be aware of our student diversity, it may not be practical to accommodate or make adjustments for the particular learning needs of each individual student. Instead, inclusive teaching practice takes a proactive approach through focusing on universal design to learning that anticipates learner diversity and therefore works towards benefiting all students.
Inclusive teaching strategies reflect effective teaching practice (Devlin et al. 2012; Devlin & McKay 2017). They express a willingness to be flexible, respectful, and responsive to student needs. You don’t need to be an expert on every religion, ability and cultural group, but inclusive teaching should demonstrate a preparedness to ask students, engage in discussion, make changes where appropriate and possible, and understand and seek out information/resources.
These strategies are particularly important to the first year experience as students from a wide range of backgrounds transition into the university arena. Watch this short video by Prof. Sally Kift as she discusses Transition pedagogies: creating the conditions for success.